Beach Volleyball Youth World Championships review - A bright future for Poland
There must be something in the volleyball water in Poland.
Not only did their men's volleyball team win World League gold for the first time in 2012 and their junior men's beach volleyballers also step on top of the podium, but their youth boys' teams also followed the same path, with infact the final of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball Youth World Championships – held for the first time in Cyprus – featuring two Polish teams.
While the boys' final match saw Michal Bryl/ Kacper Kujawiak play against compatriots Lukasz Kaczmarek/Sebastian Kaczmarek, with the former duo securing the gold medal win, the girls' competition, saw defending champions Karolina Baran and Katarzyna Kociolek having to contend with a silver medal.
Not bad for a country which will be hosting the beach volleyball event of the 2013 season - the FIVB World Championships in Stare Jablonki.
For the first time in the championship’s eleven-year history the men’s gold medal match saw two teams from the same country. But even though Poland may have been assured a gold medal, it didn’t stop the teams – who practice with and compete against each other regularly – from putting on a superb contest.
Lukasz Kaczmarek and Sebastian Kaczmarek, both 18 years old, started strongly and dominated the first set. However, Bryl/Kujawiak weren’t ready to let the opportunity go and rallied together to win the second set and then the deciding tiebreaker third set.
Russia’s fifth-seeded Viacheslav Kirienko/Dimitry Uraikin defeated Austria’s eighth-
seeded Martin Ermacora/Lukas Stranger to take home the bronze in the boys' competition.
It would have been all gold for Poland if Lithuanian duo Ieva Dumbauskaite/Monika Povilaityte had not held off a comeback effort by Poland's defending girls' champions Baran/Kociolek to earn the top prize. Lithuania's 18th-seeded Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte went on to record a two-set gold medal victory over Baran/Kociolek in a thrilling 39-minute match.
In another tight battle for the bronze medal, Russia's 12th-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Anna Gorbunova came back after losing the first set to defeat Germany's seventh-seeded Sandra Ittlinger/Yanina Weiland 2-1 in a 53-minute match.
Although the top four places in both the boys' and girls' competitions went to European countries this year, the participation of a number of African countries is an indication of times to come and points to the possibility of some surprising upsets from previously unknown players in future editions of the championships.
For the moment, Poland can bask in the glory of its recent accomplishments especially that it has still managed to retain its stronghold following the change in championship format, to include eight new teams, increasing from 24 in previous years. This year’s championships saw a main draw of 32 teams, with the competition being a day shorter. Without a qualification tournament each confederation had a quota of six teams per gender and staged their own qualification process to determine these places. The additional two places were filled by the host country, Cyprus.
Capturing both the top spots at last year’s championship in Umag (Croatia), Poland joins Germany as the only two countries to win gold medal in both genders, in the same year, in the event’s first decade.
Poland and Germany are now also tied for the lead among all countries with 15 total final four finishes each (Germany has six for men and nine for women while Poland has nine for men and six for women).
It is noteworthy that Lukasz Kaczmarek, who won last year’s championship with Macjej Kosiak was not deterred from reaching the final four this year with a different partner. Poland seems to have found the magic formula to churn out not just volleyball players but world class champions.
The Youth World Championships were put in place to nurture a new generation of beach volleyball athletes ready to compete for berths in future Olympic Games and other World Championships. With the intensity of the competition on display for the crowds, it seems it is only a matter of time before we see some of the names in Cyprus carving a niche for themselves at the World level.